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JIFFY EVALUATION CENTER

P O BOX 492, EAST GLOSSOP, NH

Phone & fax: 603 555-1212

DIAGNOSTIC EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION

Name:

John Schmidt

Test dates:

9/4/96

Parents:

Mary & Ralph Schmidt

9/12/96

Address:

16 Bacque Road

Birth date:

2/13/87

Mossboro, NH

Age:

9-7

School:

Mossboro Elementary School

(9 years, 7 months)

Examiner:

Marge N. OíVerra, M.Ed., S.A.I.F.

Grade:

4.0

BACKGROUND

Referral

John was referred by the Mossboro Elementary School Evaluation/Placement Team for educational evaluation. The referral asked, "Is John educationally disabled? Does he require special education services? If so, what programs/modifications would benefit John?"

History

John lives at home with his parents, older brother, Sam, and twin, younger brothers, Billy and Bob. They are living in a trailer while building a new house. Johnís father is a mechanical engineer, and his mother is a part-time accountant. John reportedly has highly developed physical abilities and reached developmental milestones for motor development early. He continues to demonstrate excellent mechanical abilities and can easily visualize a physical solution to a problem. John is very helpful to his parents, volunteering to carry out physical tasks.

John had many episodes of fluid in his ears (serous otitis media) from age six months to about four years. He still occasionally has fluid build-up. He was much later developing speech and language skills than motor skills, but an audiological evaluation at age 3 revealed normal hearing. John also passed pure tone, 25 decibel hearing screenings at school in second and third grade. Johnís vision was tested at 20/20 in each eye in second grade, but 20/30 in each eye in third grade. He told me he will soon be receiving corrective lenses, which he says he needs to see the blackboard from his customary position in the back of the classroom.

John dislikes school and is only beginning to respond to demands for homework. He has attended first, second, and third grades in Mossboro. His third grade teacher described him as "an average oral reader, but comprehension is very weak. Math concepts are weak. Attention and motivation [are] poor." John often did not complete assignments, and had difficulty following directions. His behavior was "immature." He was a "good thinker when focused."

Johnís first grade report cards indicated adequate progress in basic reading, writing, and math skills, but difficulty staying on task and some "incidents" in the classroom and in the playground. Johnís second grade teachers reported that his "work and social habits have improved a great deal this year. He has good ideas, but weíd like to see him writing more and putting more effort into his written work." However, there was "a big improvement in Johnís writing" during the year. "He has been reading well also, but his test scores are still inconsistent. He has done very well in math with trading (borrowing)."

In third grade, John continued to have difficulty staying on task, completing assignments, and listening effectively to instructions and information. "Behavior during special classes and Ďfollowing rulesí continue to be issues." His teacher noted inconsistent work that did not appear to be up to his ability. "John has grown a great deal this year in language areas. Math concepts need practice. The issue of his behavior, attention, and responsibility needs to be addressed," which is being done through the present evaluation and a referral to Dr. Marion Haste for assessment of possible Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).1


1Confusingly, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) calls both the Predominantly Inattentive and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Types, as well as the Combined Type, Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


John completed levels 8 and 9 in the Silver Burdett reading series during third grade. Better oral reading than reading comprehension was again noted in his reading record.

Johnís current, fourth grade teacher, Ms. Taken, reported that John moved around in the classroom a great deal and that he twisted, pulled, and poked his skin on all parts of his body and pulled his lips over his face. He frequently licked his fingers and chewed his nails whenever his hands were not otherwise occupied.

PRESENT TESTING

Tests Used

Appended to this report are a list of the names and brief descriptions of the tests that John took, an explanation of the scoring system used, and tables of Johnís test scores. Please note that, throughout the report, I am reporting test scores as percentile ranks and stanines as described on p. i the Appendix. The verbal labels of the stanines are not necessarily the same classification labels supplied with the tests (please see p. vii). The different tests use many different scoring systems, so the same scores may be called different things, hence my translation of all test scores into a single system.

Test Conditions

John and I worked together for two sessions of about 100 minutes each in the Conference Room, kindly made available to us by I. M. Shirley Wright and the staff who would otherwise have been using the room. Physical conditions were good. Light, air, and temperature were comfortable. The table and chair were a little high for John, but did not appear to cause him discomfort. Outside noise was minimal except during one class change, during which John and I just conversed.

John told me that both his mother and his teacher had explained to him that my job is to help teachers and that his parents and Ms. Taken wanted me to recommend better ways of teaching him. He understood that the testing was not to "test" him, but to give me information so I could offer suggestions to his parents and teachers.

John was friendly and cheerful and completely cooperative with all of the tests. He chatted with me about a variety of topics, including the new eye glasses he would be getting after the evaluation,2 the familyís moves from a house to a trailer to a new house, his nationwide travel during the past summer vacation, his dogs, and his tree house. Johnís stories sometimes interrupted tests, but he was always willing to be redirected to the work at hand.

John was an attractive, sturdy boy of about average height for his age3 with a very short crewcut and a mobile, expressive face. His nails were deeply chewed.

John spoke slowly, as if he were sometimes searching for the words he needed. His mother told us that he seemed to have similar word-finding difficulty at home. He worked very slowly on nonverbal tasks, especially on paper-and-pencil tests, but usually paid good attention and worked steadily when he did not interrupt himself with a story.

John was persistent on the tests, giving up only reluctantly on items that were too difficult for him. He tended to be a little impulsive on items that seemed easy. John was physically restless and became more so toward the end of each session, which lasted 90 and 105 minutes. His attention was used up by the end of each session, but we quit before his test performance could deteriorate. John did not twist his skin or pull his lips as was described in the referral, but toward the end of each session, he began contorting his very mobile features into funny faces.

I confirmed that the purpose of the evaluation was to help Johnís teachers learn more about the best ways to teach John. Everyone is better at some things than at others, and the tests could help determine which were which for John. I also warned John that there would be some items that would be too easy (basal items), designed primarily for younger students, and some that would be much too difficult (ceiling items), designed primarily for older students.4 Those items are included to make sure we do not miss any extreme strengths or weaknesses.

Johnís scores appear to be reasonably valid indications of his current educational functioning levels. His occasional lack of attention to too-easy items did not make much difference in his scores.


2John said he needed the glasses for seeing far-point material, such as the chalkboard. He did not seem to have any difficulty seeing the test materials. He commented once that the print was small for the common fractions on the math computation test, but he read all the digits accurately.

3John's health record indicates that his height has been about average (50th to 60th percentile) and his weight slightly greater for his age (60th to 75th percentile).

4Most tests progress from lower, easier items to higher, more difficult ones, with different starting points depending on the student's age or grade. "Basal" rules allow us to omit items below a specified number of consecutive passed items and "ceiling" rules require stopping after a certain number of consecutive errors. These rules focus testing on the student's functioning level and limit time and stress. The assumption, based on research, is that most students would have been able to pass all items below the basal and none above the ceiling. This assumption may not hold for students with unusual patterns of strengths and weaknesses.


Test Findings

Johnís scores are all compared to the scores of other students of his age or grade, which automatically compensates for the varying difficulty levels of the tests. Therefore, John might score higher, compared to other students, on a difficult test than on an easier one.

Johnís scores compared to scores of other students of the same age are very slightly lower than his scores compared to other students in the same grade. According to norms published by Developmental Learning Materials,5 the average student of age 9-7 is placed in grade 4.3, and the average age of students in grade 4.0 is 9-4.

The various tests we used come with their own, peculiar systems of test statistics and verbal labels (e.g., "average") for test scores. Rather than use several different systems, in which the same score might have two or more different labels, I have taken the liberty of additionally translating all of the scores into stanines as described on p. i of the appendix. Please note that these are not necessarily the verbal labels furnished by the test publishers.6

Reading

On an ascending, nine-point scale similar to stanines, John rated his own reading ability as a high average 6, but his enjoyment of reading as a very low 1, compared to other students in the same grade. He did not name any books or magazines he particularly enjoyed reading on his own, but said he enjoyed "some books we are finishing up" such as The Best Worst School Year Ever. John said he enjoyed making things, such as models and an elaborate tree house, which he described in some detail. He told me he had taken apart a big wheelbarrow and that he had painted the house while his father was working on it. He talked about working in the family garden. Johnís mother said he was talented at taking things apart and reassembling them correctly.

John read words aloud from the WIAT7 list with good accuracy for his age. He relied more on instant recognition of familiar words than on strategies to attack unfamiliar words, but his automatic reading vocabulary was strong, yielding a High Average score, the same as his self-rating. He did try to sound out some unfamiliar words, e.g., "course" for coerce, and "rune" for ruin. His errors suggested he could use a little more work on sounds spelled with two vowels.


5These 1977 norms are old and are national averages. In school systems making frequent use of "readiness" or "transition" or "pre-first" placements or retention in grade, the average age of students in a given grade will be higher. However, these norms fairly closely reflect the relationships between ages and grade placements for students in the testsí norming samples.

6The numbers in the first column of each table are the standard scores, scaled scores, or T scores from the tests. The numbers in the second column are the percentile ranks corresponding to those scores. The final columns are the stanine equivalents for those scores. What differ from the test manuals are the verbal labels (e.g., "Low Average") given with the stanine scores. The last page of the Appendix shows the verbal labels used with scores from the Wechsler, Woodcock-Johnson, and Differential Ability Scales.

7Please see pp. iv-vii of The Appendix for full names and brief descriptions of the tests John took.


Johnís reading comprehension score was not as strong as his accuracy in reading words aloud from a list. The 22-point difference between his High Average oral reading and Low Average reading comprehension scores was statistically significant.9 He understood and recalled straight-forward facts from what he read, but had difficulty making inferences from what he had read.

The WIAT listening comprehension subtest is very similar to the reading comprehension subtest, except that the examiner reads the paragraph aloud to the student before asking the comprehension questions. Johnís score for listening comprehension fell between his oral reading score and reading comprehension score, which suggested that the process of comprehending and organizing the language of a paragraph, selecting relevant information, and making inferences to answer questions was slightly difficult for John even when listening rather than reading for himself. John might profit from direct instruction in reading comprehension strategies.


8These "test scores" are the scaled scores or standard scores that are used with the various tests. Please see p. i of the Appendix for explanations of these different statistics. The various systems are not directly comparable to one another. The percentile ranks and stanines in the next two columns are provided to offer a common system that is consistent across all of the tests.

9Test scores are never perfectly accurate, so differences between scores can occur by chance even when the tested abilities really are about equal. "Statistically significant" means that the difference between scores was too large to be likely to occur by accident unless there were a true difference between the two abilities being tested.


Writing

On the ascending, nine-point scale, John rated his spelling as an average 5, his handwriting as a very high 9, his ability in writing stories or papers as an average 5, and his enjoyment of writing as a high average 6.

Just as he had rated it himself, Johnís spelling score on the WIAT was Average for his age. Most of his errors were phonetically reasonable: his spellings could be pronounced correctly as the intended words, e.g., "senchuries,"10 "exsitement," "absints," and "pationts." John consistently spelled the sound ight as "igth." He occasionally failed to double consonants, e.g., "aparintly" and "asistance."


10For example, if "senchuries" doesnít spell centuries, then what does it spell?


John was asked to make up and write a story about a picture of an outer-space scene. His spelling in the story was 88% accurate, which is a little low for spontaneous writing, but his errors were reasonable for his grade level. The Franklin Language Master 4000 was able to come up with the correct words for all six of Johnís spelling errors. For three of them ("wierd," "sourt," and "fuond"), the correct word was the first choice offered by the machine. For the other three ("gys," somthing," and "mystereis,") the correct word was offered, but not as the first choice. The Microsoft Word for Windows 95ô spelling checker did even better for John: the correct word was the first alternative offered for five of the misspelled words and the second choice given for "mystereis." The Microsoft Word for Windows 95ô spelling checker would apparently be very helpful for checking Johnís already fairly accurate spelling.

John spent 12 of the permitted 15 minutes writing a relatively brief, 51-word story in 7 fairly short sentences or sentence fragments. He wrote slowly with apparent effort and omitted one word. John used a variety of punctuation, which gave him an Average score for punctuation used, but also omitted some necessary punctuation, which lowered his language conventions score to Below Average. Although disorganized, his story was a good effort to create on short notice an interesting plot with dialogue and action.


11These "test scores" are the scaled scores or standard scores that are used with the various tests. Please see p. i of the Appendix for explanations of these different statistics. The various systems are not directly comparable to one another. The percentile ranks and stanines in the next two columns are provided to offer a common system that is consistent across all of the tests.

12Johnís spelling was, as discussed above, fairly accurate, but six misspelled words left only 51 correctly spelled words in the story, and the TOWL-2 scoring is based on the number, not the proportion, of correct spellings. The percentage accuracy score, unlike the spelling score, counts both misspellings of "weird."


Math

On the ascending, nine-point scale, John rated his math ability as an above average 7 and his enjoyment of math as a very high 9. John had earlier that math was the subject he liked least, simply because it was math, but when he marked the 9 on the Self-Rating Scale, John said, "Never mind what I said before. I like math."

John added whole numbers with carrying and subtracted with borrowing, although he tended to miss the minus sign and add subtraction problems. He also mistook the multiplication sign for a plus sign. If John had correctly performed the correct operations on three problems, his math computation score would have been High Average instead of Average, about the same as his math applications score.

John did short multiplication and short division without remainders. He added and subtracted both denominators and numerators when working with common fractions. Johnís paper-and-pencil math computation was very slow and laborious. He became restless while working on the fairly brief, 24-item, math computation subtest.

John had no difficulty with verbally-framed math applications problems presented to him both orally and in writing. As long as he had the necessary computational skill, he understood the problems and  attacked them correctly. Multiplying 3 x 23, John set up the problem inefficiently and began working from the left. 

On the WISC-III, John was also asked to solve math applications problems, but those problems were read aloud to him without a written copy, and he had to solve them without scratch paper. John had no difficulty doing problems at his skill level in his head, scoring High Average for his age, as he had done with the WIAT problems with visual aids and scratch paper.


13These "test scores" are the scaled scores or standard scores that are used with the various tests. Please see p. i of the Appendix for explanations of these different statistics. The various systems are not directly comparable to one another. The percentile ranks and stanines in the next two columns are provided to offer a common system that is consistent across all of the tests.


Cognitive Abilities

John demonstrated ample intellectual ability for school work. His total score on the WISC-III was solidly Average for his age. However, there were some noteworthy areas of strength and weakness among his subtest scores.

Oral, verbal abilities. Within his overall High Average14 verbal total, John did better on subtests emphasizing acquired verbal knowledge, or the application of learned verbal skills and knowledge to familiar types of problems, than he did on the verbal subtests requiring flexible reasoning with new and unfamiliar verbal problems.


14 Please remember I am using stanine classifications for these WISC scores.


John scored Above Average on the crystallized verbal ability subtests of general information quiz questions (e.g., "Who was the first President of the United States?" or "When is Thanksgiving?") and vocabulary definitions (e.g., "What does Ďrevisioní mean?") and High Average on the oral math applications problems without scratch paper.

In contrast, John scored Low Average on the more unfamiliar, verbal reasoning subtests of explaining how two different things (e.g., cat and mouse) or concepts (e.g., hope and fear) could be alike and answering questions of social and practical understanding (e.g., "What is the ting to do if you accidentally break a friend's toy?" or "Tell me two reasons for reading a daily newspaper."). John also found it difficult to repeat series of dictated digits. He inconsistently managed to repeat five digits in the order they were dictated and three in correct, reversed order, which was Low Average for his age.


15 These "test scores" are the scaled scores or standard scores that are used with the various tests. Please see p. i of the Appendix for explanations of these different statistics. The various systems are not directly comparable to one another. The percentile ranks and stanines in the next two columns are provided to offer a common system that is consistent across all of the tests.


Nonverbal, visual and visual-motor abilities. Within his overall Average total on the nonverbal, visual and visual-motor subtests, John scored High on the holistic, spatial nonverbal subtests of identifying missing parts of pictures, copying geometric designs with patterned cubes, and assembling puzzles of cut-apart objects. He demonstrated excellent visual, spatial reasoning abilities, which is consistent with his motherís report of his skill in mechanical activities. His scores would have been slightly higher if he had earned more time bonuses for working quickly. His deliberate working speed cost him a few bonus points.

However, John worked extremely slowly on the paper-and-pencil processing speed tests of marking rows of digits with different symbols according to a digit-symbol code and scanning rows of symbols and marking "yes" or "no" to indicate whether he found matching symbols in each row. John appeared to be working as fast as he could, but these subtests of clerical speed and accuracy were extremely challenging for John, and he did not seem to be able to work any faster.

On the remaining nonverbal subtest, putting cartoon pictures into the correct sequences to tell stories, John worked accurate, but very slowly. His score was Low for his age, but, if we could count items he completed correctly beyond the time limits, his score would have been High Average. Evidently, Johnís speed of processing visual data was extremely slow, although generally accurate. Johnís slow processing speed on those WISC-III tests was reminiscent of his slow struggle with paper-and-pencil math calculations and writing.

Interview

John told me that this was, so far, his favorite year in school, because, "I like Ms. um, ah, and, ah, and, ah, ah, yeah, I donít know." His favorite subject was, "Ah, Science, I mean Social Studies." Johnís apparent word-finding difficulties were particularly evident with such open-ended questions. He said he did best in school when, "Ah, I was thinking and not playing and stuff," and that he did not do well in school when, "Iím either playing or got detentions, which I got detention about every day last year, but not a single one this year!" John said he learned best when, "I listen," and that it was hardest for him to learn when, "Iím playing." Teachers are particularly helpful when, "They till you directions if thereís no directions to a paper." It makes it hard when teachers, "Give you a detention."

On the ascending, nine-point scale, John rated his enjoyment of Science, Social Studies, Art, Physical Education, and sports as very high 9s. Music was an above average 7. John thought he got along well with most teachers (7) and than teachers liked him (8). He indicated he learned pretty well in school (6) and did well on tests and quizzes (7). He believed he paid good attention (7) and tried very hard (9) in school. However, he did not like school (1).

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Conclusions

John is a bright boy who demonstrated excellent thinking abilities, but very slow processing of data, especially with paper-and-pencil tasks, but also other tasks, including formulating oral language. He tended to do better with visual, spatial thinking and with application of acquired verbal knowledge than with verbal reasoning with unfamiliar problems. His math, except for a tendency to misread operations signs, was strong. His writing skills were mixed. As reported in the referral, Johnís oral reading skills were stronger than his reading comprehension and listening comprehension.

Johnís high activity level, his need for extra time processing data, especially for paper work, and his relative weaknesses in some verbal skills make school a challenging and sometimes unrewarding environment for him, despite his good intelligence.

The referral asked, "Is John educationally disabled? Does he require special education services? If so, what programs/modifications would benefit John?" These are decisions to be made by the team, including John's parents. However, John's reading comprehension and some of his writing skills are substantially lower than his levels of intellectual ability, and there is some evidence that these discrepancies are the result of his relative weaknesses in some verbal abilities and of his need for extra processing time. Specific program recommendations are offered below.

Recommendations

The following recommendations were developed by all of the participants in the post-evaluation conference. The selection and presentation of these preliminary recommendations are mine, so nothing here would be binding on anyone unless and until it were approved by Johnís parents and by the Mossboro Elementary School Evaluation/Placement Team or were otherwise legally ordered. The recommendations are, of course, only my personal opinions.

1. John demonstrated a strong sight vocabulary and some word attack skills. He could be helped by some additional work on syllable patterns spelled with Consonants and two Vowels (VV), e.g., CVVC (e.g., bait), CCVVC (e.g., bleak), CVVCC (e.g., beast), and CCVVCC (sleigh). If he practices spelling those patterns as well as reading them, both his reading and spelling will be strengthened. John should have a review of spelling the ight sound and doubling rules for consonants.

2. The Microsoft Word for Windows 95ô spelling checker would apparently be very helpful for checking Johnís already fairly accurate spelling. Writing is a slow, difficult process for John. He would eventually profit from learning keyboarding skills now so that he could use a word processor for lengthy writing assignments in a couple of years. Word processing will not have any appeal for him until he becomes a reasonably proficient typist, so it might be helpful to have him start now with a computer typing tutorial game.

3. John accurately reported high average reading skills, but very low enjoyment of reading. It would be worthwhile to try to work with him to identify reading materials that would really interest him. He enjoys outdoor activities, yard work, and taking things apart and rebuilding them. It might be worthwhile to bring home a wide variety of magazines and take out subscriptions to any that John seemed to enjoy.

4. John should be given some direct instruction in reading comprehension strategies. See, for example, Sara Brodyís "Comprehension : Gathering Information and Constructing Understanding," Chapter 7 in Brody, S. (Ed.) (1994). Teaching Reading: Language, Letters, & Thought. Milford, NH: LARC Publishing.

5. A speech and language evaluation would be prudent. Johnís slow processing and possible difficulty with word finding suggest that there might be subtle language issues which could be evaluated and for which recommendations might be made. Please see the attached paper on Post-Otitis Auditory Dysfunction (POAD).

6. Visual aids appear to be very helpful for John. Teachers can help by making special, additional efforts to use charts, diagrams, models, time lines, globes, maps, illustrations, gestures, facial expressions, drama, and movement to help convey information to him. Allow him time to process the visual information. He appears to take in visual information slowly, but very well. Give John chances to use his artistic ability.

7. John might do better in another location in the classroom. It would be worthwhile to talk with him about the advantages and disadvantages of different places in the room and to work with him on trying different seats. It would be tactful to move other students at the same time.

8. Frequent, brief breaks, as Ms. Taken has been providing, give John a chance to refocus his attention. Between he breaks, it seems to be important to keep John as active as possible so he does not have time to twist his skin, pull his lips, or do whatever his current mannerism might be.

9. John reportedly follows the lead of attentive, hard-working students in class. He should be given opportunities to do so. Again, the seating arrangement could be used to enhance this process.

10. John is very responsive to success. Make opportunities to show him how new approaches to tasks, organization, or planning "pay off" and encourage the good results that come from those efforts.

11. It is much easier to form and stick with a good habit than to try to make new plans for a frequent activity each time the need arises. Once a useful habit has been formed, you do not need to keep making conscious efforts to carry out the task. For example, if you keep losing your appointment book, you might pick one pocket (one that is part of all garments you usually wear) and learn always to keep the book in that one pocket. You could teach yourself to return the book to your pocket the instant you are finished using the book and to transfer the book to the same pocket in your new garment each time you change clothes. For another example, lost homework might be saved by developing a habit of leaving the bookbag in one place (perhaps the knob of the door through which you exit for school or work in the morning) and never removing more than one task from the bag at a time. The current task would have to be returned (regardless of whether it was completed) before another could be removed. Those examples may not be relevant to John, but when recurring problems become apparent, you could sit down with him, discuss the problem, and try to brainstorm a good habit that might solve the problem. Johnís ability to visualize a physical solution to a problem would be an asset in that process. After trying the new habit for a couple of days, you could sit down again to refine the plan and then settle down to building the new approach into a firmly established habit.

12. It may be necessary to work out a plan for ensuring timely completion of homework. One possibility is to institute a class, grade, or school rule that homework must be completed before leaving the building on the day that the work is due. Larry Lieberman suggests a school-wide plan for homework.

13. Clear structure and consistent routines seem to be helpful for John.

14. Most skills can be learned by small steps. If you can begin by providing all necessary help to John to complete a task, you may be able to withdraw the help by very gradual steps until he is fully independent. Often the best way is to begin at the end, allowing the student to carry though the very last mini-step independently and then very gradually work back toward the beginning. Attention span can often be increased by beginning with tasks short enough for completion in one burst of attention, consistently praising and rewarding the completion of the task, and then very gradually increasing the length of the tasks, always ready to fall back to shorter intervals on a bad day. The goal is to try to build so slowly that John almost always finishes the task in a single burst of attention.

15. John is scheduled for an evaluation by Dr. Marion Haste. It would be helpful to share this evaluation with Dr. Haste also to discuss with him Johnís skin-twisting, lip-pulling, and other mannerisms.

I hope that Johnís parents and teachers will feel free to contact me at 555-1212 to arrange for further discussion of these findings and recommendations. Please leave an evening as well as a daytime telephone number.

 

 

Marge N. OíVerra, M.Ed., S.A.I.F.
Assessment Specialist